The current stand off between the two factions in Ivory Coast has brought the former capital Abidjan into the news again. The French-derived spelling tells us that the nearest English pronunciation of this name should be /æbiˈʤɑːn/, and yet I don’t think I’ve heard a single broadcaster say this. Invariably, it seems to me, the affricate is replaced by a fricative, completely ignoring the orthographic <d>.

This is another example of English-speakers shunning the affricate in a ‘foreign’ word, with less excuse than in the case of Beijing, because here we have clear orthographic evidence that the pronunciation should include a stop before the fricative, or, in English, an affricate. Are we afraid of seeming ignorant if we succumb to using an “English” sound in a “foreign” word?


  1. Apparently yes!

    Btw, I presume that in French the /dZ/ must be regarded as a sequence of two phonemes? I can’t think of any native French words containing it except “adjectif”.

  2. Dw – Yes, of course. French has no phonemic affricate, and the ‘d’ in the French orthography is there simply because it is a very rare phonemic sequence, just as is written before ‘zh’ in romanized Russian names, or Russified names, such as Dzhugashvili. I can’t think of any English examples where the sequence /dʒ/ would be diphonemic, but a similar case is the voiceless equivalent, where ‘tsch’ represents /tʃ/ in German (in e.g. Deutsch) or ‘tch’ in French (the name Tchaikovsky, for instance), neither language having the affricate, and in English we have the near minimal pair ‘pet-shop’ and ‘ketchup’, where there is a distinction between diphonemic /tʃ/ and monophonemic /ʧ/.

  3. I’ve heard [abiʒɑ̃] a couple of times.

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